Six-time Grammy Award nominee Nnenna Freelon and North Carolina Piedmont Laureate Jaki Shelton Green are joining forces to support a local organization of community members with serious mental illnesses.
On Saturday, Nov. 9, Club Nova of Carrboro will host An Evening of Jazz and Poetry at The Chapel of the Cross. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. and cocktail hour will begin at 7. A jazz performance by Freelon and a poetry reading by Green will follow at 8.
Club Nova, which follows the Clubhouse model of Clubhouse International, is hosting the event as part of its Capital Campaign, which aims to build a larger facility that will meet the needs of their growing membership. Heather Talton, the Capital Campaign associate for Club Nova, said the plan is to tear down the two current buildings and build one, larger building. The campaign has been ongoing for several years now.
Club Nova supports members in all areas of psychiatric, medical, social and financial care. Club Nova is a local community center of members, not a clinical treatment program.
“We have a community where people with serious mental illness are welcome to come and interact with people and enjoy the community without stigma and without any concerns,” Talton said.
Club Nova’s Clubhouse is created around the tenets of work and relationships. To promote confidence and financial independence, members are provided opportunities to volunteer with Clubhouse operations and with its thrift shop, get a job through transitional and supported employment programs and work completely independently.
Nnenna Freelon, one of the performers in Saturday’s event, is a jazz vocalist, composer, actress and playwright. She has been nominated for six Grammy Awards for her vocal work.
“It’s important for all of us, artists and others, to support the full measure of our community,” Freelon said. “Sometimes people with mental disabilities are invisible.”
Freelon said the biggest thrill she’ll have in her performance is working with Jaki Shelton Green. Freelon and Green are friends and this will be their first time working together in a performance setting.
Jaki Shelton Green is the current North Carolina Poet Laureate, and has worked with Club Nova for approximately 20 years.
“The arts are an incredible bridge and tool for people to navigate, cultivate and excavate their creativity,” Green said. “All of us possess creativity, it's just a matter of how we facilitate digging it out.”
Green has served as a board member for Club Nova, worked on their Capital Campaign and has volunteered as a facilitator of writing workshops for members.
“We are there because all of us have a deep, compassionate commitment to help Club Nova to grow and sustain itself,” Green said.
Club Nova considers itself a connected community that takes action to check on members' success. Members place weekly outreach calls, intervene in crisis situations and form new friendships at social events.
Green said Club Nova’s cause relates to UNC student initiatives for mental illness.
“Students are not without their own culture of mental illness,” Green said. “Hopefully they will see what building community looks like through the arts when artist and philanthropist and everyday citizens come together to support one of the biggest needs we have in our greater culture, and that's protecting some of our most vulnerable citizens.”
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